Glazed, plain or dipped in dressing are three ways to enjoy carrots. That's precisely what elementary students chose to sample last week as they participated in activities during what is known as World Food Day. Established several decades ago by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, this day occurs every October and since the early 1980s has had certain themes to both educate and challenge people to make changes to improve the availability and quality of food. Although a worldwide effort, steps were made right at Fredonia Elementary School under the direction of Mike Jabot, professor of science education at SUNY Fredonia. Students rotated through several food-related stations facilitated by nearly 80 college students and even though Bugs Bunny wasn't there munching on carrots with, "Eh, what's up Doc?" it was clear that students were asking, "What's going on?" and getting great answers as they ate carrots and learned about such things as how to compost with worms.
Now in its second year, Professor Jabot has organized this event to raise health awareness of local food and agriculture. As the elementary students learn, future teachers see that science can even be taught in a hallway. Some of the stations' activities included the produce harvested from Fredonia Central School's raised-bed gardens, also a project spearheaded by Jabot. Carrot tasting was just one station. Students learned about seed saving with squash and pumpkins, seeing that seeds of the heritage or heirloom variety may be saved and used to grow new plants the following year. Certainly the taste is better in these when compared to some of the sterile seeds now used in many places. Taste testing were some of the favorite stations where students were encouraged to try some foods that might be new to them. "Rainbow Nutrition" included the usual grapes, melons, and pineapple, but also had a slice of kiwi, a new fruit for many. Ever so popular at this time of year, apples were also eaten in the form of homemade applesauce, but with a certain twist of two "secret" ingredients from one of the college student's grandmothers. Not from the store, this treat was natural with no high fructose corn syrup. A variety of apples were also used as a vehicle for students to use other senses to observe what they smelled, heard, felt and saw.
Hands-on learning only gets better when students can literally dig in, and that's what they did when they tested pumpkins for buoyancy and weighed them. All adults can certainly relate to what it feels like when separating pumpkin seed from the pulp in the cavity. How about composting? Students were eager to mix up some of the new compost material. They learned about regular composting as well as the type using worms. Of course, vegetable matter from the day was thrown in. Some teachers in the school have small compost bins, which is as simple as moistened newspapers strips, the recycling of food scraps and other organic material along with worms. The bins do not smell and the rich soil called "vermicompost" is used the following year to stat seedlings for the school gardens. Amazingly, enough of this "super" soil is produced in just three months.
Students also learned about composting to prepare soil for the next year’s school gardens.
Last but not least, part of the buzzing hum in the hallway was the station where students learned about beekeeping. Students learned how a new hive is started, what tools are used, and what a frame of capped honey looks like. Honeybee products were shown such as candles and lip balm. Of course, everyone enjoyed tasting honey before they left. Not only is it one of the most healthful foods we can eat, the honeybee pollinates many of the fruits and vegetables that we count on in our diets. The science of food, nutrition, and agriculture was highlighted and students hopefully internalized a bit of what Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said so many years ago. "Let food be your medicine," shows how good health comes from good food.
Make it a good week and as Bugs Bunny would also say, "That's all folks!"
#1 Students at Fredonia Central School learned about beekeeping and the health benefits of honey.
#2 Students also learned about composting to prepare soil for the next year's school gardens.